A new startup in Bend, exploring the love of outdoors and faith, has recently been in the works since 2020. For Common Grounds Bend, the outdoors is a commonality that focuses a lot in and around the faith community. The Broadside snagged an interview with Randy Folkenberg, the current community organizer of Common Ground Bend.
The Broadside: Can you describe what Common Ground is?
Randy Folkenberg: A huge part of Common Ground is providing spiritual care for our community. There have been quite a few people that have been disenchanted by existing kinds of traditional religious structures that they feel are rigid and are fading out in relevancy in the way they are structured, antiquated or not meeting the needs of the community. A lot of people from that demographic have been plugging into Common Grounds.
TB: Where did the name, Common Ground come from?
RF: The name “Common Grounds,” connects to our mission statement, which is to grow a movement of Jesus followers that reflect his heart in the outdoor community of Central Oregon. And what we see is that the outdoor community of Oregon would experience abundant life. In the increasingly diverse religious spectrum that is existent in North America and western society, there is a lot of division and increasing walls being built and there’s not a lot of space for people to come together that have passions about faith and spirituality, but see differently that have a place where they can explore in their faith and have a common ground. Our focus being here in Central Oregon and the outdoor playground that it is, we find that in an increasingly divided world, we have no better common ground with other people than the very land we live on and recreate in.
TB: Who’s involved with the making of Common Grounds?
RF: When there was a recognition of the demographic and room for the growth of a new faith community, we felt that focusing on Common Grounds was really a direction of where our hearts and passions aligned and were excited about. We actively have been praying for this, where we felt like we wanted to be able to lead a life that extends to the outdoor community of Central Oregon. For a period of about 9 months, I had conversations with a lot of people with the intent of this broad vision. I had several conversations and interviews, and out of those conversations we formed a group of about 14 people, including my wife and I.
TB: Were the conversations and interviews that were being held with people from within your church or community?
RF: Some of them were acquaintances that I had from our local church community. None of them were from the existing churches that I pastor at, Madras or Redmond, but some were connected to another church in Bend that I have been told a few people have a similar passion for. Others were acquaintances that I have made in the outdoor community, maybe not with the exact same religious background, but who had a similar passion for living for the abundant life principles that Jesus gives in the outdoor community. Others were friends of ours that have moved here recently, who have not found any existing churches to meet them where they were and provide spiritual guidance and support within the community. So, it was kind of a cross section of people from other churches, people I’ve met rock climbing and others that were looking for a faith community.
TB: What’s something you think Central Oregonians should know about your organization? How can they connect to Common Grounds?
RF: There are four avenues that people can engage in, and they are all unique and are designed in a way that extends abundant life to different groups of people. One; we have weekly life groups, coming together to share the conversations of faith, go through the common teachings of faith, discussion and worship. Then, once a month we have common ground gatherings, where there is a music set or teaching of someone of a principal on Jesus.
We also have service projects that engage in the outdoor community here. These have included anything like assessing the state of trails in Sisters, or included doing food at aid stations on races at the 100-mile Cascades race. The fourth are retreats, based on an outdoor pursuit and themed conversations. We recently held a climbing festival retreat weekend, where we offered guided rock climbing to our community and a place to grow in relationship with other climbers and had themed conversations.
For more information on the organization, visit them at commongroundbend.org